Car-related sales help drive Maine’s recovery

It appears we love our vehicles, or that an improving economy has made Mainers feel a little better about investing in their rides.

For all but seven months from 2010 to 2015, automobile-related sales have grown after taking a dive with every other type of spending during the recession.

That category of spending has consistently growth faster through Maine’s recovery, hitting an eight-year high in May, which continued into June.

That’s just one indicator in a mixed bag of data on Maine’s economy through the first half of the year.

For instance, existing home sales are up but construction employment and single-family construction has slowed this year.

Those more specific economic indicators come as the state’s composite economic activity index — aggregating employment, manufacturing hours worked, wages, salaries and other figures — has risen but at a slower pace than the country and the region since the recession.

With those improvements, major retail sales growth has picked up this year and Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings have declined.

Maine’s jobless rate has fallen steadily through the year, though only recent drops have been due to higher employment numbers. From August 2013 through December 2014, the jobless rate dropped only because of people exiting the workforce.

The number of nonfarm payroll jobs has also continued to rise through the year, but remains about 11,000 jobs lower than before the recession.

The improvement in the job situation is reflected in more inclusive unemployment measures as well.

The U-6 rate, which includes people who would like full-time work but aren’t able to find it and those who are working part-time only for economic reasons, dropped from an annual average of 15 percent in 2012 to 11.9 percent in 2014. For April 2014 through March 2015, the estimate dropped 0.3 percent, to 11.6 percent.

Estimated hourly earnings for the private sector have risen, too, since the recession, according to Maine Department of Labor figures, but wage growth has been slow to keep up with inflation across the country, according to the Pew Research Center.

And if you want to give a look at what — besides cars — Maine has been spending an increasing amount of money on (also not adjusted for inflation, mind you), head back to the top of this post and tinker around with the dropdown in the state sales tax dashboard.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.